Rain Boots and Me

rain bootsI rather love rain boots. They are so damn cute. But the thing is, how often can you wear them? I mean, really, how practical are they? Although I’ve been admiring them for years, I’ve never actually owned a pair.

Halloween night I was out walking Hermes. It was raining, of course. (It always rains on Halloween, unless it snows instead.) I saw a girl walking her Husky on the other side of the street. She was wearing adorable polka dot rain boots… and it hit me:

I walk the dog twice a day, every day. You know what? Some of those days, it rains!

In fact, if there is anyone who deserves a pair of rain boots, it’s me! I am forever hunting for waterproof footwear, but buying actual, honest to goodness RAIN BOOTS never occurred to me.

Is it because I am forty? Somewhat, rain boots do seem like something for the young, or young at heart. Neither of which really describes me.

Is it because I am overly practical? Partially, I tend to either buy outdoor gear that is super rugged and durable or really cheap and semi-disposable (like from the thrift store.) Rain boots are outside of both of these categories.

Is it because I am stuffy and uptight and rain boots (especially cute rain boots) seem “undignified”? Ding Ding Ding Ding!!! We have a winner. It occurred to me as I finished the rest of my walk (in hiking boots,) that I have spent a lot of my life with a particular image in my head of how I look and how I dress. I would bet that we all do that, and why not? Can you imagine going to the store with no earthly idea of what you want? (Actually, I can. That just happened to me, but that’s a tale for another post.) The point is, the way we think about ourselves gives us little mental shortcuts. “I hate yellow.” “I never wear turtlenecks.” “I always wear rhinestones.” None of these are true for me, but you get the idea. One of my shortcuts has been, “Rain boots are too cute for me.” But, there comes a time when those mental shortcuts become roadblocks. I think that’s been happening me.

Now that I am a little older and getting a bit more daring, I am starting to challenge many of my old thoughts and beliefs, not just about rain boots, but about all sorts of things. (“I am not athletic,” for example.) Sure, they might have been true once, but are they still true?

I don’t know, but I know this:

It’s raining right now and I am going shopping for some rain boots.

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You Can Dance If You Want To…

Dancing skipped a generation by Eirik NewthThere are things that you believe about yourself. Things that define who you are, the decisions you make, and really, how you live your life. Core beliefs, like whether you are good at math, dislike working in groups, hate computers or are great with kids. Though they might seem small, they’re part of how we describe ourselves, and they make a difference in our lives. For example, depending on how you see yourself will determine if you decide to join a friend’s amateur softball league, the church choir, or a coworker’s book club. And who you spend your leisure time with will affect who you are friends with. Or take an example like being bad at math: how you feel about math might affect the college courses you take – or even if you go to college at all.

Here are a few of my core beliefs: I have an artistic eye. I dislike crowds, but am comfortable with public speaking. I enjoy reading and learning how do things with books. Spelling is not my strong suit. I can’t sing, and I am uncoordinated.

My lack of coordination is more than “being a little clumsy”, it is so bad that I frequently quip that “I can’t even spell rhythm.” (Which I can’t. Thank goodness for spell check.) However, an interesting little set of circumstances took place over the last few weeks that has challenged this belief. (In fact, part of it took place over the course of writing this post, but more on that later.)

It started with the hoop class I took the weekend of my birthday. Hooping takes a lot of coordination and rhythm, and I walked in knowing I probably wasn’t going to be very good. However, before the class I made the decision not to care. And sure enough, I wasn’t the best in the class, but more importantly, I had a great time. Afterwards I decided to take another class the next chance I got, irregardless of my lack of skill. I decided I would just have a lot of fun and not worry about the rest. For some reason, we adults always feel like we need to be perfect at everything the first time we try it. We don’t have that expectation for children. When it came to hooping, I decided to go into it like a child – excited to have fun, but not overly worried about being great.

So that has been percolating in the back of brain, and then last week I read an article over on Fit, Feminist and (almost Fifty): On Knowing Yourself, Changing Yourself and Ending the Negativity. Here’s an excerpt:

The other day a friend was asking me about rowing. I talked about how much I was enjoying it. She’s a runner by habit and expressed concern about the technical skills required to row. She asked how much coordination rowing required. My mother smiled and said it couldn’t take that much because I could do, right? And then she looked at me for affirmation.

I smiled back, a bit puzzled, and then realized she’d said that not to be mean, my mother is very kind and gentle, but because I used to describe myself as uncoordinated. It was part of my story of myself as a non athletic book loving person. I’d been calling myself uncoordinated since elementary school.

Yep, that describes me too. I’ve also been calling myself uncoordinated since elementary school. Sam B. goes on to say that rowing takes a lot of coordination and she realized that by being involved in activities that require coordination, she has become coordinated.

That article challenged my world view – something that has been happening a lot lately. Just a year ago I would have never described myself as athletic, yet now I run, bike, weight lift and am learning to box. The “non-athletic” label doesn’t fit the way it once did. Maybe the same can be said about coordination and rhythm.

Maybe the truth is different from what I once believed. Maybe it looks more like this: as a kid, I never liked sports or dance, not just because of my lack of skill, but also for a lot of other complicated kid reasons. Things involving acceptance by peers and kid social hierarchies. Since I didn’t have parents that were particularly interested in physical activities either, I simply never learned how to be coordinated. Sure, maybe coordination and rhythm is something that many people are naturally born with, but they are also skills that can be learned. However, since I had labeled myself a certain way, I never tried to overcome it.

Then came the clincher. Saturday morning I was jotting down ideas for this post and trying to put it into words, and I wrote this paragraph:

All my life I have I have felt uncoordinated and clumsy. I’ve never had rhythm or grace. Don’t get me wrong, I can hold myself perfectly well, I have good carriage, but I’m not much on the dance floor.

That day we attended a friend’s wedding. I hadn’t finished the post, but parts of it were still floating around in my head, because I was determined to get on the dance floor at the reception. I decided to let go a bit, have fun. Julian is a wonderful dancer, so all I had to do is relax. So, I did.

Now I hadn’t told him anything about all this, but when we got back from the wedding that night, Julian mentioned over and over how good he thought I looked on the dance floor. He kept saying how much fun I looked like I was having – that it showed that I was enjoying my new shape. He told me I was sexy!

So, perhaps I’ve been getting in my own way this whole time. Not that all it takes is changing the way you think and suddenly you’re Ginger Rodgers, but that many of these things that I have been saying “aren’t me” are just that way because I haven’t tried – let alone practiced. Maybe I can learn coordination by learning more about how my body moves… and removing the chains of “you can’t do this.” In fact since we’ve been together, Julian has mentioned taking dance class or a martial arts class several times, and I have always turned him down.

Sunday night he brought up taking a couples dance class again. This time I said, “Sure! That sounds like fun.”

 

Photo credit: Eirik Newth on flickr

I Used to Hate the Sun

The road near my cabin... so much sun.

The road near my cabin… so much sun.

I didn’t always hate the sun. When I was a kid during the summer, sunshine meant days I could go out and play: run around the woods behind our house, build forts, climb trees. My neighbors had a pool I could use, so sunshine meant days of swimming and making up games in the water.

I think I started hating the sun in Junior High, those terrible preteen years. That’s when we started paying attention to our bodies and our appearance back then. (I know it starts much younger now.) I’m old enough that tanning was still popular. Girls I knew started “laying out” to get that perfect summer tan. I tried it a time or two. I hated it.

My family weren’t beach goers, so laying out, if it was to happen, was going to happen at home. As I mentioned, our back yard was in the woods, so it was shaded and full of bugs. That meant one had to lay out in the (very exposed) front yard, something I was far from comfortable with in those awkward years. On top of that, it was dead boring, uncomfortable, and the minute I found a good position, it felt like an ant was crawling on my exposed skin. (Sometimes they were, sometimes it was my brain playing tricks.) I’m also pretty darn pale by nature, and of course, I had no idea what I was doing, so I inevitably got burned, and burned bad. Sunblock had a long, long way to go… and back then I knew girls who swore by tinfoil shields and cooking oil to get even darker.

So, I gave it up. I never did tan properly. It didn’t help that when I turned sixteen I got a car, thereby removing the last reason I would willingly ride my bike. Most of the popular girls, the ones who came to school sun-kissed and gorgeous, also played sports or were in summer cheerleading programs. If they didn’t have those, they had access to tanning beds, cottages or beaches. That wasn’t me. I was happier curled up in the shade with a good book, or in my later teen years, spending my spare hours working inside at my job.

It wasn’t just my pale hue that kept me from fitting in with the popular crowd. I was always too bookish, too artsy, too… odd. I had friends, but they were all like me, second or third tier odd ducks that were all funny, smart and great to be with, but also frequently socially awkward or a little too unfashionable to really fit in. At the same time I was meeting and spending time with a group of kids with dyed hair, white skin, and thick black make up. This post punk precursor to the goth movement defied the sun by only going out at night. My other friends, a bunch of theatre geeks, were too busy running from school to rehearsal to worry about things like getting sun, or “a little color” as my Mom always called it. (“You’d look nice with a little color.” she’d say.) All of this sort of snowballed into an extreme dislike of the sun.

Oddly, it wasn’t people who were tan that I didn’t like. My sister has that perfect skin that tans beautifully, my Dad did too. I knew plenty of people who worked outside or played sports that were tan and I didn’t think twice about it, but personally, I started to deeply hate the sun. Then all the findings started coming out relating sun exposure and skin cancer, and it cemented it for me. The sun and me – we just didn’t get along.

There are other factors as well. I‘ve mentioned before that because my legs have always been fairly thin, (despite me being larger everywhere else,) that I didn’t wear clothing that showed them off. The end result? From my freshman year of high school (when it was mandatory for gym class) until this May, I did not own or wear a pair of shorts. In the summer I wore jeans or skirts… long skirts. I didn’t even like capri pants much. Also, thanks to my fair skin, when I went out in the sun I covered up, either with clothing or super sunblock – the higher the spf, the better. (My sister called my sunblock “sweater in a bottle.”) Also, I didn’t “gleam” or “glimmer”, I sweated, a lot. Essentially, summer sucked – and it was all the fault of the sun.

I never got as bad as my mother, who (out of a fear of cancer) avoids the sun so completely that her doctor had to put her on Vitamin D supplements. I like nature and being outside – I just like it in the shade of a big tree, or in the spring or fall when it isn’t so stinking hot.

Then something happened…. I started running.

I started in the spring when it was still cold outside, but of course, that only lasted for so long. Then one day last month I went for a run in the middle of the day. I had appointments in the morning and plans in the evening, so I went out around noon. It was hot. The sun was high in the sky and there were no clouds. As I sat in the parking lot of the park, I realized that I hadn’t packed sunblock. I decided to go anyway.

It felt crazy and a little risky, but as I ran, I thought “How bad can it be?” It’s true, I was only out for a half hour and roughly half of that was under trees, so I don’t think I got any “color” at all. It was on that run that I started thinking about my relationship to the sun. For so long I fought for my pale skin that I had turned it into a point of pride. I considered the whole lot – athletics, tanning, shorts, exercise, sports, summer – all of it, as something that wasn’t me. The fact that I avoided it proved that I was different, and I embraced that difference.

But then I started running and it all changed. Later that day I stopped at the store to pick up some sunblock for my running bag. I went straight to the “sport” shelf. I ended up buying a small bottle spf 30 lotion for my face, but a spray on can of spf 15 for the rest of me. I have never in my adult life bought a spf below 45.

A few days later, I bought my first pair of running shorts.

Today, I’m sort of tan. Not dark tan by any means, but you can tell I spend time outside. (Admittedly, usually at 6:30 AM and 6:30PM, so we aren’t talking about a ton of exposure here.) I have three pairs of shorts and three pairs of outdoor walk/running capri pants and one pair of jean capris. Considering I own probably less than 5 pairs of pants, this has become a high proportion of my wardrobe. The sun doesn’t bother me now, and frankly, neither does the heat. I’ve mentioned that I have been running on days in the high 80s with 100 degree heat indices. I’m okay with all of it.

Running, and losing weight, first brought me to a place where I felt more comfortable taking risks. By taking those risks, I’ve started challenging my own long-held beliefs. Not just about the sun, but about how I dress, how I look, what I do – and don’t do. I know the fact I bought, own and wear shorts doesn’t seem like a big thing, but you have to realize that the last time I owned a pair it was 1986. It is a big deal.

We have these personal manifestos of all things “me” and “not me.” They are the very definition what we like, what we do, even who we are. They serve as mental shortcuts. When something new comes up we can check it against the list – is this me? Will I like this My taking up running is challenging, and changing, that manifesto. At first it happened subtly, but now I see it, and I embrace the change. When a friend recently suggested a climbing gym, “the old me” instantly started to demur, but I caught myself, and instead I said, “tell me more – where is it located again?” 

I’m not throwing away every long-held belief about myself, but I am holding them up to the light. I’ve decided to let the sun shine through.

 

Strange New Thoughts

running by kekkaSince I have been losing weight, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon – the way I think is changing. There have been a bunch of different changes, and I’ve been talking about it with my weight loss pals, so I thought I would write about it too. The biggest change? I am actually considering taking up running.

Let me give you a little background about me and why this is completely ridiculous and crazy:

Growing up, my family was fairly sedentary. We were never the types to go out and play games outside or do a lot of physical activity. Nor were my parents sport fans, so I didn’t even grow up watching other people do physical activity. I was a pretty awkward introverted kid who far preferred running around in the woods and building campsites than playing with other kids. On top of it, I have exercise induced asthma – and this was well before there was decent asthma medication. So, I was pretty good at finding a great tree to climb and sit in and read a book, but I never got into those neighborhood games like capture the flag.

As for school, I hated gym class. I was a pretty good student in everything else, but I was a wreck in PE. All my other classmates had older siblings or other family that introduced them to sports. Let’s face it, if you understand the basics of one sport, the others aren’t that hard to figure out. If you get baseball, you understand kickball. If you watch football, you can figure out field hockey and soccer. None of them made any sense to me whatsoever. I used my asthma as an excuse as often as possible (and I really did have a doctor’s note which made it all the easier.) Of course, the less you play games, the less they make sense.

Let me add a little more: I have always had a bit of a phobia about things being thrown at me; especially at eye level. Games like volleyball and dodgeball scared the crap out of me. I think it is something that I probably would have gotten over if I played catch or anything regularly, but since I didn’t, the fear intensified. I am also so uncoordinated that they practically kicked me out of my early dance classes.  So I was slow, ignorant of how to play, and uncoordinated.  My only saving grace? I did get picked for teams before the kid with two leg braces… usually.

So, as I got older I got out of PE however I could. I took Health class in high school instead, and then also ended up taking additional classes outside of my school. That meant I only had 3 classes on the campus – and I wasn’t going to waste them on a stupid gym classes. Obviously I never played a sport, and the only reason I knew when to cheer and clap at high school football games was that I usually wound up sitting by the band. The folks in the marching band always know what’s going on.

Zip forward to college – something else had happened in the intervening years to make me even less likely to run: I developed. I mentioned in another post that I am a busty gal, and my physique definitely contributed to my lack of enthusiasm about sports. My junior college required a year of PE for an Associates degree. Again, I took Health for a semester, but I refused to take a gym class. They had plenty of easy classes, and I was encouraged to take Bowling or Badminton, but I refused on principle. After all: how could these classes prepare me for my career in business? What good could it do me? Help me make baskets in the wastepaper basket? Allow me to tackle coworkers on the way to the lunchroom?

So instead of completing my Associates degree at the junior college, I transferred to a business college. At the time, the closest they had to a physical class was typing. That’s where I got my Bachelor’s Degree, and I never did get my Associates. That’s right, I changed colleges to avoid PE*.

I’m not afraid of hard work. For many years I volunteered backstage at our local community theatres and I was always the first to volunteer to move the heavy set pieces. Some shows worked my butt off, but whenever the subject of running for sport would come up I would say, “The only way I’ll run is if something is chasing me – and it better be serious about it.”

Two weeks ago I checked out a book on running from the library.

Why? Because now that I am losing weight, I love how I feel. My body feels good and I have tons of extra energy. Currently I exercise by walking my dog, and it’s great, but there is a limit to how much I can do. Already we walk over an hour a day and we go as fast as he’ll let us. (Interesting trees and rocks frequently bring an abrupt halt to our progress!) So, if I am going to keep getting stronger and feeling fit, I am going to have to up the game a little.**

I know that the hardest part of losing weight is maintenance. I’ve read the studies about how easy it is for people who have lost weight to gain it back – you probably have too. I figure if I can find some ways to regularly build muscle and burn calories, it will help me keep feeling good. Plus I am loving the way I look. Did you know that there is a bone on your chest, right in the middle, just a bit lower than your collarbones?  There is!!  I have just seen it for the first time since I was a kid. It’s amazing.

Recently, I was talking with a coworker who runs marathons. I mentioned my hour plus dog walks and how I am thinking of taking up running. He said, “Oh yeah, in a 75 minute workout, I can easily burn 1,600 calories.” Do you know how much pasta I could eat if I had that going for me?? (Although to be fair, he has the longest legs ever and runs 8 minute miles. I’m thinking a steady jog is more my style.) He directed me to a marathon website that has a really nice easy training guide, so I downloaded it.

Right now I am still in the research phase. I’m going to wait until it is a little warmer to get started since there is still a lot of ice and snow out there. Then, I’m going to need to get shoes and a serious sports bra before I even think about taking my first jog. I have to get clothes too, I don’t think I even own a pair of shorts!

But the point is, that losing weight is changing me, and it is changing what I thought was possible for myself. That is a very exciting feeling. I can’t wait to see where it leads!

Photo credit: kekka

* Okay, that wasn’t the only reason. I spent 3.5 years at my junior college trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. It was time for me to move on. When you run into instructors in the hall that say, “Hey! You’re back again!” it is time to go.

** Look at me – already using sports references!

Lane Bryant – I Banish Thee!

Amazing 1945 Lane Bryant Catalog - Uploaded by Jooleeah Stahkey

Amazing 1945 Lane Bryant Catalog. Uploaded to flickr by Jooleeah Stahkey

I have bought my last Lane Bryant shirt.

I declare it to be so. Not that I have anything against Lane Bryant, mind you*, but a girl has to draw a line in the sand somewhere.

See, I travel and do trade shows for work. Every couple of months or so I spend several days in a 10 foot square doing my song and dance for anyone I can convince to stop for a few moments. These are industry only shows – all fellow professionals. I typically wear the female version of a suit: blazer, button down shirt, dress pants, heels. I had been wanting some new dress shirts, but finding shirts for me is a bit tricky. I’m a busty gal, and as such, button down shirts have a tendency to gape in a most unattractive way.

Lane Bryant, which caters to us curvaceous gals, is one of the few places that I can usually find shirts that fit. A few months back, I picked up a new one in black. Sadly, however, the first time I went to iron it, my iron started making terrible crunchy-electrical-wiring-gone-wrong noises. I quickly stepped away and unplugged it in fear. The shirt ended up the in the “to do” pile.

So, when I picked up a new iron and attacked my pile of wrinkly clothes, I found the new shirt. I wore it the other day and it looked nice enough, though the thing with Lane Bryant is that they automatically assume that your hips are a good two to three times larger than your bust. Essentially, most Lane Bryant shirts look like little dresses with flares at the bottom. For those of us whose hips are actually smaller than their bust, it’s kind of ridiculous – and now that I have slimmed down considerably, it’s even more ridiculous! There was so much fabric tucked into my pants, I felt like I had a tutu shoved in there.

And that is when I decided – no more Lane Bryant shirts for me.

I’m getting closer and closer to my first weight goal. Still “overweight” by all those charts you see on the interwebs, but far lower than I have been in a couple decades. I feel great and I love the way I look. I am also smart enough to know how many people end up regaining the weight they’ve lost, though, so I am making this vow, right here and now.

Never again.

I don’t care what it takes. Lane Bryant, our days are through.

 

 

* Okay, I actually do have something against Lane Bryant. How about a little less bling, weird multicolor paisleys, and satin, hmmm? Not all of us are going to the discotheque, some of us just want a shirt that buttons properly to wear to work.

Photo credit: jooleeah_stahkey

Green Eyed Monster

Grown men fighting in 1938 by Smabs Sputzer

I want to punch my coworker in the face.

Smug bastard, he is walking around here all happy and unaware that I want to give him a black eye… maybe two.

What has he done to become so happy and become the target of my wrath?

He quit.

Now let’s be clear. His quitting will have very little to do with me. Oh, it might make things a little more complicated around the office, but nothing terrible. It isn’t like I will have to pick up his work or anything. No, the reason I am seething has very little to do with him – and whole lot to do with myself.

A Little Background

I work for a small company of roughly 13 people, (…make that 12,) and here’s the thing – we are like Hotel California, no one ever leaves. Roger, my coworker, started just a couple of months before I did – 14 years ago. That’s right, I have been working at the same company for 14 years.

That isn’t to say that people aren’t asked to leave. Over the years many people have been laid off or fired, but there just haven’t been that many that have chosen to leave on their own. There was a gal three years ago who left to be a stay at home mom and a gentleman a few years before that who decided to go back to school to a university across the country. Of course, he continued to work for us on a freelance basis. The only other person I remember leaving was someone who left to start his own business, and again, he’s continued to work for us now and again.

Why do people stay? They stay for all the reasons you might imagine. The pay and the benefits are good. The work is stable and secure (we haven’t laid anyone off in years.) It is a challenging environment, but in a good way – rarely stressful. The work changes enough to keep it interesting. I have solid coworkers who aren’t into office politics or being pains in the ass. While it is not exactly the kind of job you jump out of bed for in the morning, it is one you feel good about going to. In all, it is a very good place to work.

Roger and I have been carpooling for about three years. While I won’t call us close friends, (we don’t associate outside of the office much,) we have certainly shared a lot in those daily car rides, and in truth, I am happy for him. He seems to be starting a new phase of his life.

…but that is also why I want to punch him. I admit it, I’m jealous. It isn’t that I want another job, I am happy where I am. I am jealous because he is taking that leap of faith – starting something new. I want to start something new!!

The only slight problem here is that I have no idea what it is that I want to do. I really need to figure that out before I go jumping off ledges. Here’s what I do know:

I have a huge project that ends in June, but another that starts in May and runs through September. That is going to keep me hopping through the spring and summer. For my own sense of sanity, I am trying to keep the rest of my life fairly stable. I’m going to keep working on my weight, and keep managing the finances so I can add more to the jump fund, but I am not looking to add anything else. Change, as wonderful as it can be, can also be really stressful.

I am also going to keep reading, keep writing and keep thinking about what “happiness” means to me… What am I going to do to make coworkers want to punch me?

 

Awesome illustration from Smabs Sputzer

 

Contemplating Christmas

Traditional ChristmasMom’s surgery went about as expected, which is to say that some things have improved, but others have not. We progress with her health at a snail’s pace …a very confused snail, one that keeps doubling back on itself. That, and the fact I presently have an aunt in ICU for other serious health issues, is casting a bit of a pall over the holidays. Ah well. Life is like that sometimes. Besides, I have two amazing, adorable, awesome nieces that always lift my spirits. I can’t wait to see them on Christmas day!

When I was a kid there was a set formula for the holidays. We had traditions – the family getting together in the formal living room and assembling the artificial tree. Dad spending hours untangling the strands of Christmas lights and tracking down faulty bulbs. Opening one special game or toy (or as we got older – movie) on Christmas Eve that could keep us entertained until it was bedtime. We had special ornaments, a special breakfast, a certain way we put up the stockings… countless traditions, big and small. Of course, as we grew up, things started to change.

We tried to keep things the same as they were for many years. Even though we were both out of the house, my sister and I would come back on Christmas Eve and spend the night so we could reenact our childhood the following day. But then, my Dad got cancer. That pretty much changed everything. I vividly remember that Christmas. My sister and I had come home Christmas Eve as usual, but that year everything was off. She and my mother both got the stomach flu and ended up sick in bed. They spent most of Christmas Eve and day huddled together, puking. My Dad, weak, pale coughing, was wrapped in several blankets and spent the day dozing in his Lazy Boy. We called the extended family and warned them to stay away. We didn’t even bother opening presents until 5:00 or 6:00 that night, when my sister and Mom were finally able to sit up for awhile. Me? I was fine. I spent the day in my pjs watching movies and hanging out with my Dad when he was awake. It turned out to be our last Christmas together.

Since then, things have changed even more. Years have passed. My sister and I each got married. I got divorced. She had children. The family is radically different, and we’ve had in-laws and other parties to arrange schedules around. It all worked out, it always does, but a lot of traditions have gone out the window. Honestly, I am not sure that that is such a bad thing. Sure, I miss some things, and I desperately wish my Dad could see his grandchildren, especially at Christmas, but it is what it is. We place such high expectations on this holiday, but Christmases don’t have to be perfect. Joy can be found in all sorts of things – having a few quiet moments alone Christmas morning to sit by my own tree and drink hot chocolate, watching my niece ripping the Christmas tissue into ever smaller pieces instead of playing with her new toys, getting text messages from friends all throughout Christmas day wishing holiday cheer.

This year is still up in the air. All I know, at this point, is that we are having it at my sister’s house. (With two small children it is much easier for us to come to her.) I don’t know what time we are getting together, I don’t know what we’ll be eating – or even what I need to bring. I don’t even know for sure if my Mom will make it. I assume she will, but I try not to have too many expectations when it comes to her right now. I’m going into this holiday blind, and that is okay. However things turn out, whatever happens, I’ll be okay, and I, like many others this time of year, will find my holiday spirit wherever I can.

 

Photo credit: luckyfish

When a Cup Isn’t a Cup

Yesterday I wrote about my project to clean out my house. I mentioned that it is a big task, not because I have so very much stuff, but because each object requires thought. How do I feel about this? Is it something I need, or want? If I get rid of it, how will I get rid of it. Do I donate it? Sell it? Can it be recycled? Given away?

Of course, part of the problem is that a thing is not just a thing. Each object is also all the associations built into it. Take coffee mugs. Simple things really – vessels designed to hold hot liquids and make them easy to drink. Coffee mugs are easily purchased and easily disposed of – but can be surprisingly emotional.

This photo was not taken with Instagram.

If you were to look in the back of my cupboard you would see a particular mug that would catch your eye, simply because it is so ugly. You can tell it isn’t a modern mug. It is too small, far smaller than our current coffee cups, and it isn’t a pretty mocha or taupe, but a flat utilitarian brown. It was made by Fire King, but even a lover of Fire King would have a hard time finding a place in their heart for it. This mug has had a rough life, and it shows. The brown is muddy and is chipped in places and the inside has permanent coffee stains.

It isn’t a practical mug either. If you microwave it, it heats to the temperature of the sun, guaranteeing that you will scald your lip the first time you try to sip from it. It keeps coffee hot, but too hot – by the time it cools down, your breakfast is done. And then, it holds so little coffee that you immediately want another cup, but have to go through the whole cooling off process all over again. If you were to sell it in a garage sale, you might mark it a dime. If it went to the thrift store, it would sit on a dusty shelf until the end of time.

When I hold this cup in my hand though, I become 8 years old again. It is covered in paint – speckles of blue, yellow, white, silver, and small chunks of bondo. My father does auto body repair, and this is his work coffee cup. The cup sits on a shelf in the back of the stall, getting dirtier by the day. My dad doesn’t wash it, he says the coffee residue just adds extra flavor. At best he might wipe it out with a rag, but that is rare. Once a month or so, it might bring it home to be washed. My mother and I make fun of him and his filthy mug. My dad jokes back that I shouldn’t mock the mug – it is my inheritance.

And in a way, that is exactly what it is. My father died ten years ago this September. When my mother cleaned out the childhood home, she found this in the back of the cupboard. Dad would never let her throw it away – it was my inheritance, after all. And while I have a number of things he built or made for me, and things he had owned, this is the one thing he always said he wanted me to have.

 

Photo credit: Me. It’s my mug, after all.

Just The Facts Ma’am

Some background:

What I really want to do is dive right into everything I have been thinking about and working on the last couple of months. I want to just get it out of my head and splatter it all out on the page. That is what this blog is for, after all. Before I go skyrocketing off, however, I feel like it makes a lot of sense to spend a little time laying the foundation. Setting up the stories, if you will, and filling in a little background.

So, I am going to start with a little bit about myself. I am 38 years old living in the Midwest. I was married, and have been divorced for a couple of years. I have a very good job, (though it is a little stressful right now,) and am President of the Board for a local nonprofit that I am passionate about. I have a loving boyfriend, a nice, (though old,) house, a sweet dog that I love to death, and a little cabin in the woods. I also have a caring family. Though my father is gone, (he passed away several years ago,) my mother is still well, and I see her fairly often. I have a wonderful sister, brother-in-law, and two adorable neices. I am also fortunate to have an amazing network of incredible people that I am lucky enough to call my friends. All in all, life is very good.

This blog is not to complain about my life. I know that my life is filled with an abundance of riches. This blog is more about finding my purpose. A few years ago, I had a some very focused goals. During that time, I was incredibly intent on my life – and every moment in it. I had to be. (I am sure I will be writing more about this later.) Anyway, when that time of hyper-focus ended, I allowed myself to relax. I decided to take things easy for a bit, and just focus on the day to day. That was okay – I needed that then. In some ways, I still need it now- but I can see a time ahead when that won’t be true. Currently, I am very tied to my life the way it is. I don’t have room for a lot more.  Yet, I see a time in the next year or so when some of these things will lighten up – where I will have a lot more flexibility.

Here is the problem: when it comes to responsibilities, I am like a magnet through iron shavings. I have a tendency to pick up things without even noticing, and then they are almost impossible to shake off. I don’t want to do that mindlessly anymore. What I want to do, and the reason for this blog, is figure out some goals for myself. I want to decide what I want to focus on – rather than letting life choose for me. If I know where I am heading, I will know what to say yes to – and what not to.

Ideally, I would like to have some five and three year goals. I would like to turn those goal into a rough plan for the next few years. I don’t need to set things in granite, I just need to have something I am working towards. I want to figure out some ways to make things a little better, to find things to look forward to. I need to create a plan.

I am not in a rush. This is a journey, and an important one, if I am going to use it to map out 5 years of my life. I am going to let the planning process take however long it takes, and chart it all out here, on Long View Hill.